Fedor to Defend Belt on New Year's Eve Versus Hunt

By Jordan Breen Nov 21, 2006
On October 23, Fight Entertainment Group gave the first impetus to mixed martial arts' hallmark happening, lighting the fuse for the 2006 installment of K-1 Dynamite!!, and New Year's Eve on the whole by announcing their a event match-up between HERO'S superstars Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures) and Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures).

Now, just under a month later, Dream Stage Entertainment has fueled the fire of Japan's annual fight festival with an assortment of announcements and particulars for this year's PRIDE Otoko Matsuri, or “Shockwave” as North American fans know it.

PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada (Pictures) met with the Japanese media on Tuesday at Dream Stage Entertainment's head offices in Aoyama, Tokyo to announce the early particulars for Dream Stage Entertainment's December 31 endeavor at the Saitama Super Arena. Takada's first order of business for the media session, was to announce this year's theme for PRIDE's Otoko Matsuri.

In 2004, Otoko Matsuri's thematic subtitle was "Sadame" ("destiny”), and in 2005, "Itadaki" ("summit"). In front of the cameras, Takada turned over a signboard to reveal PRIDE's theme for 2006's Otoko Matsuri: Fumetsu.

Fumetsu, Japanese for "immortal" or "undying," seemed a natural fit, said Takada.

"This year, we used language about immortality several times," he reminded. In the wake of Dream Stage Entertainment's yakuza scandal in the Japanese tabloids and their subsequent contractual fracture with the Fuji Television Network, PRIDE informally adopted the slogan of "PRIDE never die,” now crystallized in the nomenclature of its biggest card of the year.

Second on Takada's agenda was the announcement of Fumetsu's main event, a PRIDE heavyweight title clash between challenger, 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt (Pictures), and champion, the long-reigning divisional ace Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures).

The December 31 title defense will be the third of Emelianenko's championship tenure, with previous successful defenses against former champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures), and Mirko Filipovic (Pictures).

"While Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ and Josh Barnett (Pictures) were the leading candidates for the fight," Takada revealed, "neither of the two are in the best condition."

Takada suggested, very obviously, that fighters ought to be at full capacity when taking on Emelianenko, and thus, the hard-hitting Hunt was chosen as Emelianenko's challenger, despite coming off a demoralizing loss in his last bout this past July against the aforementioned Barnett.

Takada also announced a number of competitors to be added to the schedule of possible participants for the event. While 11 fighters were on the initial list of possible participants announced last week, Takada revealed another host of fighters that may potentially compete on New Year's Eve, including, but not limited to, Kazuo Misaki (Pictures), Akihiro Gono (Pictures), Denis Kang (Pictures), Shinya Aoki (Pictures), Gilbert Melendez (Pictures), Mitsuhiro Ishida (Pictures), Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures), Hayato Sakurai (Pictures), Ikuhisa Minowa (Pictures), Joachim Hansen (Pictures), Ricardo Arona (Pictures), and Kazuhiro Nakamura (Pictures).

According to Takada, 2006's Otoko Matsuri would feature 10 bouts, slightly fewer than in previous years. With an excess of 20 fighters on the participation schedule, and only nine remaining matches to be decided, it goes without saying that not every fighter on the potential fight schedule will compete.

Takada laid out some more of Dream Stage Entertainment's motivations and philosophies behind the potential matchmaking on New Year's Eve.

”I want to construct a fresh card that hasn't been seen until now, rather than rematches or revenge," Takada said. PRIDE's General Director also indicated that he felt it was important to have at least one or two matches pitting Japanese competitors against one another, as well as hinting that while some of the foreign competitors' participation was somewhat tenuous, that it was very likely that both Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) and Kazuyuki Fujita (Pictures) would both be in action on New Year’s Eve.

Also, Takada touched upon the ongoing broadcasting woes of Dream Stage Entertainment. While DSE's push for a broadcasting contract was severely crippled after president Nobuyuki Sakakibara failed to make good on his promise that they would announce a broadcasting deal on November 10, Takada stated that the chance for PRIDE to be on network television for New Year's Eve "was not necessarily zero" quite yet.

While the event will of course be carried on pay-per-view provider SKYperfecTV!, it has appeared increasingly unlikely that the event would become part of New Year's Eve's network broadcast schedule in Japan. Speculation among Japanese television insiders is that neither of the two major broadcasters without confirmed New Year's Eve programming, tv asahi and TV Tokyo, would pick up Otoko Matsuri for December 31.
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